Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau paces the sideline during a 101-98 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 26.
The Chicago Bulls hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 26 at the United Center. It would have been easy to pencil in this matchup as a win for the home team, but that turned out not to be the case.
The teams played to a stalemate for most of the evening, but it was the Cavs who made the big plays late in the fourth quarter, en route to a 101-98 win over a stunned Chicago Bulls team.
With the loss, the Bulls dropped to 32-25 on the season and the team's 11-game winning streak over the Cavs was snapped in the process.
Here are my grades for the starting lineup as well as the bench.
Loul Deng: A
In Derrick Rose’s absence, Deng continues to be one of the most consistent players in the lineup. Against the Cavs, Deng recorded 26 points (9-of-16 from the field), grabbed seven rebounds and handed out five assists.
The only negative in this game for Deng was the fact that he missed a jumper that would have tied the game at 98 in the closing seconds of regulation.
In his defense, you want the leading scorer to take the last shot with the game on the line. Unfortunately, his attempt came up short as did the Bulls in this matchup.
Carlos Boozer: A
While Boozer’s production has dipped somewhat in recent play, he showed up big time for the Bulls in this one. Boozer led all scorers with 27 points, while shooting an efficient 13-for-20 from the field. He also scored eight consecutive points in the fourth quarter, helping the Bulls trim a nine-point deficit down to three points.
The downside to Boozer’s performance is that he was not a presence on the glass, as he recorded just five rebounds and most of his points came by way of the jump shot rather than from the paint.
If the Bulls are going to turn things around offensively, they will need to find a way to score inside consistently and, like it or not, Boozer is their best low-post scorer. That said, he will need to get back to aggressively taking the ball to the basket as he did in January.
Joakim Noah: B
Although it was difficult to tell from watching the game, Noah did have a solid outing. He scored nine points, led the team with nine rebounds and dished out five assists. In addition to that, the All-Star center swatted away four shots.
Despite his solid performance, the emotional leader of the team was noticeably despondent in the postgame interview that aired on Comcast SportsNet. He mentioned how the injuries, along with the wait on Rose’s return has taken its toll on the team.
It is unfortunate, but things do not get any easier for the Bulls going forward. In order to avoid future letdowns of this nature, the team will need to find a way to play well for 48 minutes every night.
Rip Hamilton: C
Rip Hamilton has been almost a non-factor for the Bulls this season and this contest was no different.
Hamilton scored seven points on 3-of-6 shooting from the floor, but his production did not have much impact on the game.
Whether Rose returns this season or not, the Bulls will need more production from the 2-guard position if the playoffs are going to remain a reality.
Kirk Hinrich: A
Welcome back to the lineup my friend. The Bulls and the fans missed you during your absence. After sitting out the last three games with an elbow injury, Hinrich showed what the Chicago offense was missing.
He scored 11 points, handed out 11 assists and pulled down five rebounds.
While Nate Robinson gives the team double-digit scoring on a consistent basis, Hinrich’s decision-making and the ability to defend both guard positions provide the Bulls with an edge whenever he is on the floor.
I hate to give a bad grade to a unit who is missing an important piece from its rotation in Taj Gibson, but the bench was pretty much a no-show in this one.
The bench only combined for 19 points on 6-of-20 shooting, a big reason why most of the starters logged heavy minutes in this game.
Even without Gibson in the lineup, the second unit has to find a way to spell the starting five. If not, the Bulls will continue to lose games like this one.
Next up, the Bulls will face the Philadelphia 76ers on February 28.